Perfect analogy. The eventful finally Monday nighter at Texas Stadium was Eastwoodian – and that's how we'll frame a game featuring a Fistful of Highlights:
Kelly's Heroes – One game, Jason Witten is beating the Eagles without a helmet. This game, Jason Witten is beating the Eagles without a shoulder. The tight end ducked into the locker room briefly in the second quarter when his shoulder "popped out.'' Trainers shoved it back into place, administered a pain-killing shot, and sent him back onto the field of battle so he could finish with seven catches and 110 yards.
That's fairly heroic. It's also a sign of leadership, Emmitt. (Read on. …)
Absolute Power – Emmitt Smith is both an ESPN commentator and the NFL's all-time leading rusher. That's power. But he is in over his head when suggesting this Cowboys team lacks leadership. Romo and Witten in their way, Ware and James in their way, even Tank and Pacman in their way, absolutely lead this team. The core of that group has led Dallas to 15 wins in their last 17 games. How does Emmitt think that occurs?
Two Mules for Sister Sara – Romo was electric in many ways. At 21-of-41 for three TDs and 312, he is well on his way to becoming the statistically greatest regular-season Cowboys QB of all time. But as Romo said, "I had two poor plays. … I kind of hurt my team for a little bit. … But this game is not without human error.''
The two errors: An interception and then a foolhardy double-fumble in the end zone that resulted in 14 quick Philly points, and 24 points for the visitors in the second quarter.
On the whole, Romo has developed himself into a thoroughbred. But on those two plays, he did look like two mules. Donkeys. OK, he looked bad.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – That would be running backs Marion Barber III (among his highlights 63 rushing yards and scores on the ground and in the air) and Felix Jones (among his highlights a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD).
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – It's all McNabb.
Good? He made plays. At 25-of-37 for 280 yards and a TD (and what should've been another), he made plays. And he did it with his rare combination of power and elusiveness.
Bad? The announcers' explanation of how McNabb's mood dictates everything for the Eagles. "When he's smiling,'' they kept saying, then everything is fine. (Um, maybe he should smile more?)
The ugly? In a critical play that really sealed Philly's fate, the Eagles called a fourth-quarter play that relied greatly on McNabb's decision-making skills. It gave him the option to hand off to Brian Westbrook or fake to Westbrook and give the ball to the receiver on a reverse.
The result: McNabb did it all. … and did nothing. He first put the ball in Westbrook's stomach, then pulled it out in an apparent attempt to execute the reverse, and then – whaaaaa? -- tried to again give it to Westbrook, who, of course, was well beyond the point where he could cleanly take a handoff.
Good. Bad. Ugly.
Paint Your Wagon – It's a bandwagon. It's painted silver and blue. And Tony Kornheiser is aboard it. The long-time Washington-based columnist, now ESPN's "entertainer'' in the broadcast booth, admits he virtually sleeps through some of these games. But he was energized Monday by the assortment of stars – especially Dallas stars – that made big play after big play. He even said something about "everybody in Dallas'' believing the Cowboys are the most talented team and a lock for the Super Bowl.
That's an exaggeration. But those of you who think "the media hates Dallas'' can no longer really believe that.
Hang ‘Em High – A nod to Nick Folk. Don't take the kid for granted; his FGs of 51 and 47 yards make him 15-of-16 on field-goal attempts in prime-time games.
The Enforcer - Roy Williams suffered a spiral fracture in his forearm and will miss about four weeks. Is Pat Watkins capable of taking his place as "The Enforcer''?
Every Which Way But Loose - On fourth down and 17 and time running out, the desperate Eagles tried a hook-and-lateral. … and another lateral. Credit to rookie Mike Jenkins for staying at home on the corner in Dallas' dime alignment, forcing third-toucher Brian Westbrook out of bounds.
Escape from Alcatraz – Terrell Owens now talks as if Philadelphia was a prison to him. Well, consider this a continued celebration of his freedom. With two touchdown catches – one of them a double-move beauty of 72 yards – T.O. is now second to only Jerry Rice as an all-time TD-catcher. We still can't figure out why the ESPN studio crew disses him so (is Keyshawn jealous), but we know this: We're glad Owens "escaped'' to Dallas.
The Dead Pool – A gremlin sullying Dallas' record is killed: Before this, the Cowboys hadn't won a Monday Night Football game at home since 2001. Wow. Can that be right?
In the Line of Fire – The "line'' in question is Dallas' O-line, and the "fire'' is Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's "organized chaos'' upfront. In the end, the 41 points, the time allowed to throw deep, and the grind-it-out finish (there was an incomplete pass that prevented the blockers from finishing the game on the field) demonstrated that amid all the stars, this offensive line is a key part of what makes the Cowboys arguably football's best team.
Honkytonk Man – Is it just me, or is Hank Williams Jr.'s act wearing a bit thin?
Sudden Impact – DeMarcus Ware did not have his usual impactful game, in terms of start-to-finish. And Greg Ellis, the other Pro Bowl pass-rusher on the other end, had done even less. (Worth noting: The guy in the middle, Jay Ratliff, was pretty good.) But in back-to-back plays, first Ellis and then Ware (in a mad chase of McNabb) recorded sacks. Sudden Impact, indeed – and then Sudden Impact II.
Heartbreak Ridge – Eagles rookie receiver DeSean Jackson tries to out-T.O. T.O. by catching a loooong TD pass and then celebrating. … one yard too soon. He didn't make it over the "ridge.'' The touchdown was negated, and when Philly eventually scored on a short run, the ESPN announcers said Jackson's gaffe would no longer be "infamous.'' Wanna bet?
White Hunter, Black Heart – Observers still giggle at the sight of the old cherub, Wade Phillips, doing his white-men-can't-dance high step along the sidelines at exciting moments. But while he's a lovable chap in many ways, all you have to do to know what's inside of him (and his similarly cheery coordinators) is to review this gameplan. Attack, attack, attack. Dallas never tried to "nurse'' its leads, never played scared, and never played as if it didn't believe it could succeed. Wade deserves some credit for this.
Unforgiven – Roger Goodell has let him off the hook. But Fate still hasn't forgiven Pacman Jones. He's not yet a "shutdown corner'' and he's only the second-best return man on the roster right now. But forgiveness will come – and so will excellence from Pacman.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – Some think Jerry Jones is "good.'' Some think he is "evil.'' But it really was around midnight when Jerry stood in the middle of the Dallas locker room and declared his love for thrillers like this.
"I love 'em! I love 'em!'' he shouted. "God, I had fun!''
Space Cowboys – Are these teams evenly matched? Probably. But in the clutch, the Cowboys outscored Philly 20-7 over the game's final 30:45. In that sense and at that time, Dallas puts space between itself and the visitors.
True Crime – Maybe nobody actually ended up getting robbed. But man, did referee Terry McAulay and his crew blow an assortment of calls. Missed placements, tipped balls that weren't, double-facemasks not seen. … awful.
A Perfect World – Dallas is 2-0, with a leg up on the obviously powerful Eagles. And Texas Stadium says goodbye to Mondays in style. What could be more perfect than that?
An Eastwoodian Show
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